And that's how she found him. With his back pressed against the fridge in his bare looking apartment, arms slack at his sides, his hands resting in his lap, knees drawn up close to his body. He didn't look up to her, didn't show any kind of reaction acknowledging her presence, until she approached him, slowly, carefully, calling his name once more.
Only when she eventually kneeled down in front of him did she see that his eyes were brimming with yet unshed tears. With a grimace she let her head droop for one short moment as she tried to prepare herself before facing him again.
When he didn't answer her knocking, she pushed his door open with all the strength her perfect engineered body held. She barged into his apartment, nostrils flared in anger, her frame shaking with pent-up aggression that was aimed solely toward him. He had endangered her friend so carelessly, without regard to exposure, without regard to anything.
"Alec!" she exclaimed, fire in her voice, as she went farther into the room, her eyes searching for a sign of him. She knew he was home, the big fella had told her as much after she had threatened it would only make matters worse for Alec if Joshua continued to protect him.
It was so easy to make the big guy relent.
"Where the hell are you? Answer me! Alec!" she yelled into the quietness of the apartment. "How dare you persuade Joshua to help you revenge Biggs' death?! What were you thinking, huh?! Do you know how easily this could have ended bad for you guys? For Josh? He sticks out, Alec! You know that! You purposely endangered a friend's life with your selfish little attempt to…"
Her words trailed off into a whisper when she found him sitting on the floor of the kitchen. Stopping in her tracks, completely silent now, she took in the scene that unfolded in front of her. Shards of glass littered the floor, the broken remains of a bottle lay discarded on the ground, shimmering with tell-tale smudges of crimson.
"What is this?" she started, acidic words lingering on her tongue and waiting to get out in the open. "Now you're playing the devastated emotionally crippled – "
No reaction, not even a glare in her direction, a shift in his position. No movement, no sound.
Startled, she paused for a moment, swallowing words that blazingly burned down her throat. The venom died away as she stood there, watching him. This was not a show for her sake. This was something else...
Now what? What to do with an unresponsive Alec, who didn't even get angry at her, didn't react in any way whatsoever to her presence?
It was different this time; his usual mask was not in place. He simply sat there, his soul laid bare. She could see that, just by looking at him from a distance...
"He was your friend, Alec. I know. It's okay to mourn the loss of a friend… But you could have told me. I would have come. To take Josh, though…"
She looked at him, her eyes narrowing as she saw him try to shrug it off as if it were nothing. A pathetic weak moment she had caught him in. But he didn't move to get up; if anything, he inched farther away from her, his back pressing so hard against the fridge that its edge had to leave a mark on his skin. She noticed the deep laceration traveling down his arm to his hand in an angry red line where he must have cut it by smashing the now broken bottle with his fist.
A gesture of anger, pain.
She wondered whether she should do him the favor of bitching about his behavior again, telling him off for the way he dealt with things, taking an innocent man like Joshua along for his revenge.
It would leave him off the hook.
He would be grateful because he didn't seem to be able to rebuild the barriers around himself on his own. Not this time. He'd need help.
"He was your friend, Alec…" And she knew better than anyone what it meant to lose a friend, to lose your family; left behind to deal alone with the grief.
She had seen him cry once, when she had been too far away to comfort him. Not in miles, maybe, but another distance altogether. It had prevented her from entering the intimacy of a moment in which his pain had eventually overwhelmed him.
It had been he who bridged that distance later, holding Max in his arms when she had lost her composure in front of him, her soul bare and vulnerable, her whole being raw and open.
Now it finally seemed to be his turn, and their closeness scared her.
"Talk to me, please." She smiled at him, more of a grimace showing her uneasiness and pain than a true smile. "People leave, Alec. For us, it'll always be like that. I know you don't want to talk about this now, but eventually you must - you should…"
She stared into his swimming eyes, saw one hand reach furtively up to wipe across them, hide them from her inquisitive gaze.
The memory of Ben shimmered in her own, and she knew he could see it, could see her pain, too.
"Biggs was a nice guy. I liked him. A lot. Back at Jam Pony, he was always so…"
She fell silent when he suddenly looked at her and she could read a wordless plea in his eyes. Please don't say it. Please don't talk about him. Not yet...
Max fumbled for words to say, for something to assure him that everything was going to be alright, although she knew it wasn't true. She searched for a way out of this, a way that would allow him and her to keep their facades intact, to deny that a moment like this ever happened. But she didn't find anything to say. Her mouth was dry, her throat constricted.
It hurts so bad…
She couldn't make it go away, she wasn't good at finding consoling words to say. The whole comfort thing was not exactly her strength. She wanted to run, to leave him alone, to deal with his demons all by himself, as he surely wished to do. She sighed silently and got ready to leave. As she gradually lifted herself up, his eyes were suddenly trained on her, following her every move.
She saw it then, and wincing, she sat down again. She stretched out her hands in a guarded movement, until skin touched skin, her hands connecting with his bare arm, his blood sticky underneath her fingertips, a hissed intake of breath his only response.
It was an ugly wound he had inflicted on himself.
When she looked up again, he let his head hang; not quite fast enough, though, she could still see the silent tears that were finally running down his handsome face.
The silence strangled her, frightened her; so did his tears, and there was only one thing she knew to do.
Even though he was Alec.
Even though she was Max.
She let go of his arm and leaned forward, her hands traveling up to his face, touching it ever so slightly before she pulled him close to her, holding him fiercely, with her body muffling the one wail that escaped him then. She held him tightly, pressed against her chest, cradled him in her arms, until finally she felt the light touch of his hand on the fabric of her shirt in a barely perceptible answer.
She saved him that night.
Though there would never be words for acknowledging it...
When words fail, there's always the power of touch…